January 10, 2007 05:57:10am
Once and for all, people
I was a senior at Cornell in 1977, an astronomy major. Having little or nothing to do, I volunteered to serve on the school's activities committee. I was responsible for convincing the Arizona Department of Agriculture to send us a box of Peyote for our Native American ritual called "Spring Dance." In fact, I was even on the spring dance committee that was responsible for choosing the band. Now, here's what happened, ok? There was a vote and the committee was split between The Captain and Tenille, Alice Cooper, and the Dead. As you can guess, the Craptain won 4-3-2, the boys finishing Dead last. Well, we heads weren't going to put up with this so, pranksters that we were, we began to plot. We snuck into the Ithica Times a week before the gig and changed the advertising from the Captain and Tenille to the Grateful Dead. No one there noticed, as no one there gave a shit. Next, we broke into the offices of the Cornell Daily Sun--no tough task as it was always unlocked--and stopped the presses to plant an article about the coming of the Dead. Again, no one really noticed. It wasn't like Cornell had any awareness in 1977. They were all on 'ludes and disco fever as it was.
Next, we hijacked Barton Hall itself, festooining it with the appropriate attire--tie dyed sheets hung from the rafters like championship banners, and a huge mirror ball was placed dead center above the first four rows. Then, coup de grace, we convinced the good Captain that this was a theme night and we had chosen to imitate the longshoreman trips festival from 1966. This took some doing, as Cap. didn't know what the hell a trips festival was. We told him that it was like sailing a boat out to sea and, being a captain, after all, he acquiesced.
Of course, that was to our advantage, as he would believe anything we told him: he was into it, thinking that this was such good, clean fun. We told him that there would be incense and balloons and lots of Kool Aid and that the band needed to dress up in hip attire--jeans, boots, etc., and that the lead guitarist had to wear a beard and large sunglasses. So far so good. Tenille even agreed to wear an extremely long black wig, but we had to talk her out of making a bouffant out of it.
Finally, the night before, we held a Jerry look alike contest. This was a problem, since nobody won. Not to be thwarted, we went into town and found a stocky wino who agreed to wander the campus drunk on Burgundy wine singing about roses and a guy name Casey Jones.
Then it came time for the concert. This was the tricky part. We knew that the Captain and Tenille lip-synched their music, long before it was made popular by Milli Vanilli. We convinced them that the trips festival would be nothing without some hippie music instead of their usual show. Oh, were they psyched to be a part of such a clever plan! They couldn't wait!. Then the coup de gras. We handed out disposable cameras to members of the audience, cameras that were already preloaded with pictures of the Dead from a few nighs earlier. Click, flash, click--we got it!
8 o'clock. In they filed, like lambs to the slaughter. Already luded up, they didn't notice anything fishy about our regulation Bill Graham garbage can full of Kool Aid--special Kool Aid, marked "Can you pass the acid test?" That did it. What marched in were a bunch of stoned out deluded disco heads. What marched out were a bunch of stoned out deluded dead heads. And the story spread from there. It was magic! What a band! My older brother was right! That Bobby fellow is cute! I wish I could grow a beard like Jerry's!
The problem: some enterprising sophomore taped the concert. There were hints on the tape that this might have been a fraud, after all. The Dead weren't doing Viola Lee Blues or ending with Turn on Your Lovelight at this point in time--oops. What to do? We got the guy loaded on mushrooms and switched tapes. We gave him a cassette loaded with audience recordings from several '77 shows. "Geeze--this wasn't as good as I remember," he commented. "Oh yes it was," we replied. It's even better. He finally agreed--after 15 hours of tripping, and we leaked the tape out into trading circles. Thus the myth became reality. Years later, when soundboards were emerging, we simply redid the tape with soundboard versions of the same tunes.
And that, my foolish friends, is the true story of May 8, 1977. The best damn concert that never was.
Just wished we had videotaped it!
"Just tap her on the shoulder."